Jamie Norton is looking forward to having his house back next winter. For years now his roommates — starter trays of peppers, eggplants, melons, cucumbers, gilo and other vegetables — have taken over his home each winter and spring, covering nearly all available space.
“We start them at my house, my dad’s house, in the living room, in the kitchen — we run out of rooms,” Mr. Norton said at the family’s Bayes Norton Farm in Vineyard Haven this week. This year alone his father Jim Norton started 2,060 tomato plants in his home.
But thanks to a new greenhouse on the farm, those starter plants will have a place to call their own. A new 24-by-48-foot greenhouse is in the final stages of completion. The area was cleared during the late spring and the greenhouse installed earlier this summer.
“Next year it’ll be nice to have a place that’s heated,” Mr. Norton said.
The construction of the greenhouse coincided with the end of school. Mr. Norton and his wife Dianne have balanced the ebb and flow of teaching math and reading at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High school and tending the farm since 2004, when they took over the farm from Mr. Norton’s father.
The 10 acres of cultivated land, nestled within walking distance of the upper Lagoon Pond and steps away from Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, is steeped in Norton family history dating back centuries.
The greenhouse was built from a kit and has two ridge vents to control the temperatures.
“They open and close by sensors,” Mr. Norton explained. “If it’s too hot in here or too cold they’ll open and close, or if it’s too windy outside they’ll close so they don’t break.”
For now the greenhouse will be used for starts, with plans to include possible hydroponics in the future.
“I’m sure it will evolve into something but the plan right now is to use it for starting,” he said.
The greenhouse may appear familiar to some — it is the same greenhouse kit used by garden center Donaroma’s in Edgartown, just on a smaller scale. Donaroma’s has three greenhouses, each one 21 by 84 feet.
Mr. Norton’s greenhouse went up in a week.
“It only took that long because it was the first time this crew built a greenhouse,” Mr. Norton said. “It was a steel construction crew [from Dennis]. They’re used to building steel buildings all over the world.”
The building crew assembled the greenhouse first and then lowered it into its pilings. “This way everything was perfectly square,” Mr. Norton said. “They built the whole thing without the glass on it. The whole thing was built before the cement was poured.”
Mr. Norton said he had hoped to build the greenhouse closer to the stand, but due to the town water line, setback requirements and abutting irrigation lines, options were limited. Instead they cleared an area of the farm, normally dense with trees, in between the stand and the farm worker bunkhouse.
“We didn’t want the greenhouse in the shade,” he said. “It also opens up the garden to the road so there are benefits like that.”
The farm splits the town line — the greenhouse is in Tisbury and the farm stand is in Oak Bluffs.
Due to the greenhouse project, crop plantings were later than usual this year, Mr. Norton said. “When people come in here it looks like there’s nothing planted,” he said. But on closer inspection, you can see arugula, zinnias, tomatoes and potatoes sprouting.
The familiar “We Have Our Peas” sign went out several weeks ago.
Juliet tomatoes were on his mind, though. The small oval fruits were overflowing in the farm stand.
“We started picking Juliets already in June,” he said. “They’re red and they’re legitimate.”
A recent dispute between the Martha’s Vineyard Honey Company and the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market has been resolved after the honey company was readmitted as a vendor at the market. Company owners James Kozak and Monica Miller filed a lawsuit against the farmers’ market in superior court last week claiming they had been improperly barred from the market this year. The complaint was withdrawn after market organizers agreed to give the company a spot at the Wednesday market for the remainder of the season.
This column is meant to reflect all aspects of agriculture and farm life on the Vineyard. Remy Tumin may be contacted at 508-627-4311, extension 120, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.